Tagged: Finn

Joe Corallo: Rogue One – A Marketing Story

Before I jump into my main point about the latest live action Star Wars adventure known as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I’d like to make some things clear. First, I loved it. By noon this past Friday I had seen it twice. I enjoyed it more than The Force Awakens. I’d be more than happy to go out and spend the money to see it again.

Now that I made that very clear, I’d like to go into two of my observations. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider anything I’m about to state as a spoiler, that doesn’t mean you won’t. If you are very sensitive to anything even remotely resembling a spoiler, please watch Rogue One before you continue reading.

We’re all on the same page now? Great!

The first observation I’m going to make revolves around foreign markets. In particular, the Chinese movie going market. China has become the second largest market for movies in the world and Hollywood has been taking advantage of that. The Force Awakens failed to go over well in China, which made it impossible for the movie to beat out Avatar for the highest grossing film of all time.

In an effort to change that, Rogue One features Hong Kong action mega star Donnie Yen as well as another prominent Chinese actor, Wen Jiang. It’s a solid marketing move and could prove very lucrative for Disney if it gets China’s moviegoers to the theaters for it.

This is more or less a neutral move to pander to an audience. While this does mean precious character real estate isn’t going to other groups or to Asian American actors, it’s still diverse casting. It is also pandering and not really risktaking. While we can discuss this as being good representation, we have to acknowledge it’s also smart business.

Don’t think that considering financial gains to be made in other countries from Hollywood will always have a neutral impact like this. In some cases it’s a positive impact. Movies like Iron Man 3 likely avoided offensive stereotyping with the character of the Mandarin by not wanting to offend that audience. That’s great. Hollywood becoming more worldly for that reason is important and encouraging.

There are drawbacks, however. One of the biggest examples being Doctor Strange. In a politically motivated move, Disney avoided casting someone to portray the Tibetan character of the Ancient One and instead changed the origin of the character to be Celtic while keeping the Asian aesthetic. The thought being that the Chinese government would inhibit the movie’s release and cost the studio precious revenue. While that’s not what is happening with a movie like Rogue One, this mindset could potentially be damaging in other ways. Dehumanizing the people of Tibet or erasing them entirely for a generation will have consequences. As will promoting talent from other countries as Asian American actors and actresses are given more and more hurdles to overcome to make it in Hollywood.

My second observation has to do with the characters of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus who are played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. I’ve seen many opinion pieces going around about how they’re clearly a gay couple with evidence from the movie. I’m going to make my thoughts on this very clear.

I’m not happy that Disney’s approach to Star Wars so far had involved queer baiting. If they weren’t aware they were doing that in The Force Awakens they certainly knew for Rogue One.

There is nothing about either sets of those characters that directly implies they’re in a relationship, or that they even want a relationship together. They like having each other around and aren’t shy about their admiration of each other in both movies, but men showing some affection towards each other does not mean they are in a sexual relationship and that kind of thinking can be dangerous and continue to inhibit straight people from feeling they can express themselves that way without implications as well as keeping queer people in the closet longer.

It’s 2016. If you want to have queer characters in your movie, you can.

You don’t need to code them. If you’re coding them, then you’re only speaking to a queer audience. This is an audience that doesn’t need coding anymore; we need real representation. Besides, coding characters so only a queer audience might read them as queer isn’t speaking to straight audiences who are the ones who really need to understand queer characters more and understand that we exist and we aren’t going anywhere.

A reason to code characters in 2016 would be so you can make more money at the box office by not potentially turning away moviegoers who might think twice about wanting to see a queer love story play out while also wanting to make nice with a queer audience. They might also want to make sure people in countries with governments that may be less friendly to the queer community will allow the movie to play unhindered. Not sure something like that would happen? Queer elements have been edited out of anime like Sailor Moon back in the 90s so it could play on TV here in the States.

I completely understand that not everything out there will have queer representation and I am okay with that. What I don’t want to keep seeing are queer baiting story elements like we’ve been seeing in Star Wars since Disney has taken the helm. Either have the representation or don’t. You don’t get to have it both ways and we can’t keep praising companies like Disney for representation that isn’t actually there.

Rogue One was a solid installment in the Star Wars universe and might be my favorite installment since the original trilogy concluded. I highly recommend it. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep hoping for something better even if it means rebelling against some of those in power. Rebellions are built on hope.

Joe Corallo: Comics’ Queer Year?

star wars finn and poe

If you celebrate Christmas, merry belated Christmas. And a happy early New Year.

Now that I got that out of the way, the New Year coming up has me reflecting on this past year. We’ve seen some interesting things diversity wise. We saw at least a couple of firsts in comics, we saw some steps forward as well as some steps backward, and overall we may have ended up not too far from where we started. But I do like to think we did get a little further than we did in 2014.

I don’t want to go over every little thing that happened in detail, as I’ve already covered most of those in my other columns the past few months. So here are just the highlights.

We saw an increase in bi visibility with DC Comics clarifying that Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman are all bisexual. We saw bi erasure with Constantine being portrayed as straight in his NBC series and Marvel’s Hercules being straight in his current iteration.

We’ve seen two different Icemans come out as gay over at Marvel, and Midnighter get his own series at DC as an openly gay superhero. We also saw Northstar and Batwoman fade into the background, and still haven’t heard too much from Rictor and Shatterstar, or Hulkling and Wiccan. I know Hulkling and Wiccan are in New Avengers, but that only came out toward the end of this year and they don’t have the same of attention they did in Young Avengers and the book has been met with mixed reviews.

We also saw the first trans woman get married in a mainstream comic without actually having a single active trans superhero.

One of the more interesting phenomena towards the end of this year has been fans projecting queer relationships into franchises where they just don’t exist. Yes, Marvel’s Jessica Jones did have a lesbian relationship in it, but it wasn’t with Jessica Jones. Despite that, some fans were projecting that notion on Jessica Jones, as seen in this opinion piece.

The most recent example of this, just making the cut off for this year, has been the outpouring of online hopes and rumors that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the real love story is with Finn and Poe. Here is just one of the many pieces speculating that they will be lovers. Personally, this frustrates me.

There is absolutely no indication in the movie that this happens. Yes, they hug each other. They’re polite to each other. Hell, they even care about each other. None of that indicates a desire to have a sexual relationship.

Finn also makes it very clear he’s interested in Rey. He’s not only being protective of her from moments after he meets her, he lies to make himself sound more impressive to her, and he flat out asks her if she has a boyfriend. How does all of that somehow invalidate his clear interest in her? Yes, Finn could be bisexual. However, he doesn’t express any interest in anyone outside of Rey, including Poe.

It makes me wonder if some of the same people that watched this also watched Star Wars: A New Hope. Luke and Han have their disagreements, but they also compliment each other, hug, and clearly care about each more through the movie. Han even saves Luke’s life at the end of the A New Hope. How’s that for romance?

Yes, I know that the Han and Leia relationship wasn’t really fleshed out until The Empire Strikes Back. I get that. However, they did lay the groundwork in A New Hope. They lay it on you really think. Han even speculates about it with Luke. And I almost forgot the part where Han asks Luke to run away with him on the Millennium Falcon right before the Death Star trench run. When you think about it that way, nothing in The Force Awakens between Finn and Poe even comes close to the romantic implications between Han and Luke, huh?

All of this is indicative of at least two larger problems. The first of which I mentioned before when discussing Jessica Jones. Many people are absolutely starved for LGBTQ representation. Gay, straight, and everyone in between are looking for it. People are so starved for it, they’re inventing elaborate, implausible theories just to reach the level of representation they feel we should have. Sure, we can point to slash fiction as the start, or one of the starts, of the contemporary push for this. However, slash fiction was never the topic of discussion in the same way as the examples I’ve just mentioned.

The second part of this larger problem is the culture that’s been cultivated. Up until very recently, queer characters have had to be hidden in pop culture. Nothing too overt. The comics code authority didn’t even allow openly queer characters until the very end of the 80s. Characters like Mystique and Northstar could only have hints at their sexualities. Never anything open. Between rules and regulations like that, and TV and movies in many ways taking even longer to catch up, that we cultivated a culture that overanalyzes characters and their actions to unveil hidden queerness. Even though we no longer need to hide queerness to get stories out there, people still look long and hard to find any semblance of it around a story because we’ve been trained to and many of us are starved for it.

And even though we’re starved for it, publishers, networks, and movie studios are more often than not dragging their feet to put queerness out there. Don’t get me wrong, we’re way better off than we were even ten years ago. That said, the powers that be are still reluctant to change things too drastically. You would think Star Wars would be a natural place to explore queerness. Why would all of these different races and cultures that have never even met us mimic our heteronormative customs? Why would they have marriage? Why wouldn’t they have something else?

Science fiction has had this problem for a very long time. Star Wars didn’t cause this, but it could help end this if it wanted to. Though I think that many people are reading too deeply into Finn and Poe’s relationship, it does give me hope for the future of queer representation. My new hope is that all this clamoring for queer representation in a franchise like Star Wars will help move us all in that direction, and that our lack of queer diversity in comics and science fiction will soon be a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.